CRAWFORD | Who will face Nyquist in the Preakness?
Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist will take his unbeaten record to Pimlico Race Course on Monday, but not many of his Derby rivals may follow.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist spent a quiet morning at Churchill Downs Barn No. 41 after winning his eighth career race without a loss.
Trainer Doug O'Neill visited the barn at about 5 a.m. Within an hour, Nyquist had been walked, bathed and was back in his stall eating.
“He’s doing great,” O’Neill said. “He had his head out over the webbing, looking bright eyed. He ate it all up last night. Couldn’t be doing better. He’s just such a special horse.”
O'Neill was out by 6 a.m. for a flight to California. Many of his assistants will return soon. And on Monday, Nyquist himself will be on the move, to Baltimore and Pimlico Race Course, to continue light preparations for the second leg of the Triple Crown on May 21.
Later in the morning, owner J. Paul Reddam said the son of Uncle Mo should have plenty left in the tank for the 1 1/16-mile Preakness Stakes.
“I would expect his training schedule to be pretty light between now and the race because he’s certainly very fit,” Reddam said. “You could see that the way he crossed the wire. He was giving him that half-ride to just make sure he got there. When you see a jockey [look backward], you know then that they have a lot of horse under them. And he certainly did.”
The bigger question is which horses Nyquist might face in the Preakness. The bulk of the field could be made up of colts who didn't make the Derby.
Several big names likely will not head to Pimlico. Steve Asmussen's Gun Runner, third in the Derby, could make a bid at the Preakness but Asmussen didn't sound too enthused about the prospect on Sunday.
"You look at that resume and think, why argue?" Asmussen told ESPN's Jay Privman. Still, he wouldn't make a definitive statement.
"Both horses (Gun Runner and Creator) are stabled here now,'' Asmussen said. "We'll give them a couple of days. They'll go back to the track on Wednesday, and I'll speak with the owners and see what should happen next."
Kiaran McLaughlin says fourth-place Derby finisher Mohaymen will skip both final legs of the Triple Crown series and likely is pointing the Travers Stakes.
Bob Baffert's Mor Spirit, 10th in the Derby, will not try the Preakness, but the 2015 Triple Crown-winning trainer will try for a second straight Preakness with Collected.
And Dale Romans' Brody's Cause most likely will skip the Preakness after a seventh-place Derby finish, but Romans will be in the race with Cherry Wine, who entered the Derby but did not make the field.
Among Nyquist's Kentucky Derby rivals, the chief competitors likely moving on for a Preakness rematch are second-place finisher Exaggerator and ninth-place finisher Lani.
Trainer Keith Desormeaux said after Saturday's loss that he looked forward to a rematch with Nyquist. The Kentucky Derby marked the fourth time Exaggerator has lost to Nyquist, prompting Reddam to say, " I would have thought he was sick of us by now. No, his horse, obviously, ran great. And he was the closest threat. And, if I were him, I would want a rematch, too. The horses are not machines, so it will be a great race."
Lani's connections made plans to race in the Preakness before even shipping from the UAE Derby in Dubai to Louisville. On Sunday morning, trainer Mikio Matsunaga said he's still a go.
“He is not too tired this morning,” Matsunaga said. “He will go to Belmont Park tomorrow and the Preakness is still possible. There is no change in our plan.”
Ridden by legendary Japanese jockey Yutaka Take, Lani finished ninth, 10 lengths behind Nyquist.
“I think he was a little fresh early and strong the first furlong,” Matsunaga said. “Then he was one-paced in the stretch.”
Two others who were entered in the Kentucky Derby but didn't make the field -- Laoban and Cherry Wine -- are expected to try Nyquist in the Preakness.
Laoban is another colt out of the first crop of sire Uncle Mo. He's winless in five starts and trained by Eric Guillot.
Todd Pletcher, whose Derby horses Destin and Outwork are not expected to try the Preakness, may head to Pimlico with Stradivari, who worked six furlongs at Churchill on Derby morning in 1:14.40.
“We’d like to run him in the Preakness,” Pletcher said. “Or if he doesn’t get in, we’d go for the Sir Barton (mile and one-sixteenth, $100,000) on the Preakness undercard.”
Other horses under consideration for the Preakness include Suddenbreakingnews, fifth in the Derby; Awesome Speed, who earned an automatic by winning the Tesio Stakes last month at Laurel; Sharp Azteca, winner of Saturday’s Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard; Adventist, most recently third in the Wood Memorial; and Florida Derby third-place finisher Fellowship, who ran fourth in the Pat Day, along with California Chrome Stakes winner Uncle Lino.
“We’re very excited that the Derby winner and a couple others from the race are coming to the Preakness,” said Georgeanne Hale, Vice President of Racing and Racing Secretary for the Maryland Jockey Club. “It looks like we’re going to have good field sizes and great weather. All 15 stakes Preakness weekend look to be coming together and right now it looks like two fantastic days of racing.”
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